Sunday, March 28, 2010

Grace turns 4

Wow - my lil princess is getting older.  Sigh.

Grace just a few hours old.

Grace on  her first birthday.

Her Majesty on her second birthday.

Around her third birthday, her head now covered in golden curls.

Grace at four and already a diva.

And as always, a chance to get the tribe lined up for a photo.

(Sarah, Molly, Grace, Aiden & Ryan)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Bangers & Mash

I spent St. Patrick’s Day as I usually do.  I took the day off, avoided wearing green (I feel I don’t have to wear green to say I’m Irish) and I dropped by WNHU’s radio station where my parents played Irish music and took requests from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. today. 

I know I'm biased but my parents do a great job with their biweekly program, Echoes of Erin.  Amid the Irish traditional céilidh and showband music they give history, recipes and even an Irish language lesson courtesy of my mother’s Irish Language schooling.   I have this love/hate thing with St. Patrick’s Day.  While I am fiercely proud of my Irishness, I hate that being Irish gets reduced to the caricature of leprechauns, shades of greens that don’t occur in nature and binge drinking.  I've very proud that my parents, who are tea-totalers by the way, show there's more to being Irish than green beer and shamrocks.
And then there is the whole corned beef and cabbage thing.  Just for the record, corned beef and cabbage ain’t what they eat in Ireland.  At least not till Americans started coming to Ireland and bringing it with them.  The big Sunday or holiday dinner is usually boiled “bacon and cabbage” – bacon being ham or back bacon. What we think of as bacon, the Irish call rashers, which are halfway between Canadian bacon and ours.
But the other day, I discovered that the local Whole Foods carried Irish style bangers!  $4.99 a pound!!  Made fresh in Massachusetts!!!! I picked up some and, after giving half to my parents, made a meal of bangers & mash for myself. 
The bangers cook like any sausage.  I don’t do milk so I used chicken stock in its place in the mashed potatoes with a little Kerrygold Irish butter (again, thank you, Whole Foods) and served it with baked beans.  You can have bangers & mash with onion gravy which is a little nicer, but baked beans are what my grandmothers Josie Kennedy and Nora Boles fed me and that’s what I had.
Irish bangers are usually smaller and greasier and not as nice as the Whole Foods ones, but let me tell you after a few bites I was transported to my grannies’ kitchens in Clonmel town and the countryside of Ardfinnan, recalling with tears in my eyes the smells and the sounds of their homes, like Proust and his madelines. 

Bliss.  Greasy, starchy bliss.

"What is patriotism but the love of the food one ate as a child?" - Lin Yutang

Music of Ireland

While my parents are on WNHU today playing Irish music, I thought I would share some of my favorite Irish musicians with you.  Growing up in an Irish household, you are surrounded by music and "talk" and develop a love of both music and language.

Clannad - Nín Sé In Lá (It is not yet day - an old Irish drinking song)

Clannad - Two Sisters

Mary Black - A Song for Ireland

Sinéad O'Connor - She Moved Through the Fair

Declan O'Rourke - No Place to Hide

Iarla Ó Lionáird - Caoineadh na dtri Mhuire (Lament for the Three Marys)

Luka Bloom - Sunny Sailor Boy

Kieran Goss - Out of My Head

Paddy Casey - Lucky One

and Fear (thanks Alan!)

Pierce Turner - The Sky and the Ground

The Waterboys - The Whole of the Moon

Van Morrison - Did Ye Get Healed?

Visions of Ireland

Random pictures.

The way to Clonmel from Newcastle is, apparently, every way.

Scenes from Dublin around O'Connell St. & the Ha'Penny Bridge.

Beal Loch and the Knockmealdown Mountains (view from my grandfather's house).  Beal Loch is the dimpled bit of the mountain in the center.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Visions of Ireland: The Rock of Cashel & Cahir Castle

The Rock of Cashel is a large ruined church on a small rocky outcrop in Cashel, Tipperary.  While the site was originally a pagan site, with the arrival of Christianity, like many other things in Ireland, it was given a whitewash of the Church and was the seat of the Kings of Munster ever since St. Patrick converted the then king.

It has some the best examples of Celtic and early Medieval architecture in Europe and is often called "Ireland's Acropolis".

This bit fell off from the picture before a few years prior, causing some concerns about safety.  Here my brother Rob shows us why he needed back surgery years later.

Me walking up...
and looking back down the "Pilgrim's Path."

My cousin Tom and his fiancée Caroline, to give you some idea of scale.

And yes that is my thumb as I was adjusting the camera....

Cahir castle, in the nearby town of Cahir, was built in 1142 by Conor O'Brien, Prince of Thomond.  It ended up in the Butler family until the last ancestor died in 1961 when it was taken over by the government.  It was up until then an actual residence.  The Butler family actually lived there.

If it looks familiar, it was used extensively for the filming of the movie Excalibur.

The town of Cahir, like most areas with castles, sprung up around it.

Notice the murder hole above the door.  If you didn't like who was knocking on your door, demanding entry, you could drop boiling oil, boiling water, hot tar, or excrement on them.   Now that's a deterrent for telemarketers!

Visions of Ireland: Around the town of Newcastle, Tipperary

Newcastle, Co. Tipperary, (Caisleán Nua in Irish) is a small town of 201 people (according to the 2002 Irish Census), about 21 miles southwest of the larger town of Clonmel, nestled between the lush River Suir valley and the soft Knockmealdown Mountains on the Tip/Waterford border.  When we are in Ireland, this peaceful little village is our home.

Heading down from Ardfinnan, over the River Suir to the town.  Our house is in the cleft of where the brown mountain slopes down to the left.

The center of Newcastle town.

The old Norman fort, built around the 1100s which gave Newcastle it's name.

Behind the castle is the old church, which was burned with people in it, by Oliver Cromwell during his march across Ireland.

Because the church is still hallowed ground, it's now used as a burial ground, inside and out.

My father standing in the church.  I've called this his record album cover.

My mother gets one too.

We head out of town a few miles towards the house.  The sounds of the water rushing down the glen (Glen Bui or the Yellow Glen) behind the house gets louder.

The view from the mountain looking down at the house.

And looking into the Knockmealdown mountains.  This was in February (spring in Ireland) which accounts for the brown colors.

 On the mountain.

 A paleolithic tomb marker on the mountain looking over the fields and towns to the north, below.  The orientation seems to be east-west, the path of the sun.  The hills and fields of this area are dotted with Christian and Pagan sites.

The village of Newcastle in the center-left.

Heading into the mountains towards Mount Mellery Abbey.


The remnants of what is called a "famine cottage".  People lived here until the time of the Famine and either emigrated to America or England or died.

Looking back down the road.  Dewy & damp seem the best adjectives.  This was taken in May when the yellow furze was in bloom.